4 Common Mistakes My Clients Make When Asking for a Promotion, According to a Career Strategist

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Punya Sandhu301
10 yrs in Big4 Consulting, Founder - BYONDGOOD
April 19, 2024 at 3:29PM UTC

Over my 21-year corporate career, I’ve seen so many talented people not get the credit they deserve. They get passed up for promotions they should have gotten. More often than not, the four reasons below are to blame. They’re nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, I have made all these mistakes. I have also recovered from these mistakes and used the recommendations below to supercharge my career.  

1.  You don’t have a business case.

One of the most common tendencies is to assume that your boss knows everything that you do on a day-to-day basis and hence is already convinced that you are a  rockstar who should be promoted. Even if they know your work inside out, they will have to convince the next senior leader about your capabilities. Not having a business case means your message gets lost in transit.

What to do instead.

Always go with a one-page summary of all your accomplishments for the year that you can discuss with your boss when asking for a promotion. This list should convince your boss that you bring tremendous value to the workplace on a daily basis. Bonus points if you can quantify this value ($ saved, sales made, profits earned, cost savings, etc.). After the meeting ends, be sure to leave this one-pager with your boss so that they know exactly which accomplishments to highlight to senior management. 

2. You have unrealistic expectations.

To convince senior management that you are ready for the next level, you need to showcase your value and capability, in a consistent manner, for a certain amount of time. In some cases this could be months, in others, it could be years and in some rare cases, it could be weeks. 

Bottom line is, you need to be a consistent high-performer to position yourself for promotion. It is easy to set high expectations and get disappointed and impatient when your standards or milestones are not met. Maybe you expected a promotion in your first six months at a company, while the policy was to monitor new joiners at least one year prior to promotions. 

What to do instead.

Acquaint yourself with the company policy by asking HR and talking to your immediate manager. Set expectations with your manager early in the year. Demonstrate high performance, document your achievements consistently and monitor progress towards your goal through frequent check-ins with your manager.

3. You’re doing great work, but you’re going unnoticed.

You could be the most efficient professional, putting in long hours and getting the most work done. The well-meaning advice we get from our friends and family is to “put in your best at work and the results will come” and “don’t blow your trumpet”. But if no one notices as you’re heads-down working, the sad truth is you’re certainly not getting promoted. 

What to do instead.

The most important investment you can make in your career is in your network. Build your network consciously and deliberately and nurture it through the years by providing value before you ask for a favor. Educate your network (within your workplace, school and outside) about what you’re good at so they can recommend you for opportunities. Having a solid network at work means people know of you and what you do, so when it comes time for that promotion discussion, the right people are already on board and your manager can convince them easily. 

4. You don’t differentiate yourself. 

Either you can become like the next person in your team, or you can work on differentiating yourself. It all comes down to your personal brand. Having a strong personal brand can help you become the go-to authority in your domain, work on the juiciest projects in your field and get visibility from senior executives. All this translates to that promotion and of course, more success and money.

What to do instead.

Your current and previous roles/projects define the skills you have developed. Whether you loved your roles or hated them, think long and hard about which skills they helped you develop. Include your brand in your Linkedin profile, company profile or other bios and mention your brand while networking with key executives and colleagues.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Punya is a former management consultant with 15 years of experience at 2 Big4 firms, serving top Fortune500 clients. She has lived and worked in six countries and changed three careers working across several industries. Punya is passionate about sharing the crucial, but little-known business skills that can help you stop playing small, land the most high-profile projects and build a reputation that gets you the recognition you deserve. Find on the BYOND GOOD Blog or write to her at [email protected].

What’s your no. 1 piece of promotion advice? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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